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Communication in Crisis / Social psychology of the destuctive social relations

War and peace

Social relations can vary from constructive to destructive, mutually rewarding, cooperative, fair cooperation being at the constructive end, regulated competition being in between and unregulated, unjust, merciless being at the negative end. Destructive processes make conflicts irresolvable and the persons or their groups may commit to the view that the other is representative of the Evil. The parties in destructive social relations mutually will commit to the view that one has all time vigiliant and ready to defend against the threat the other is posing to one’s well being. Defense and attack wil become the major strategies dealing with the other in conflict. According to Clausewitz such destructive social relations occur not only in war but in and peace as well. He defines war as a social relationship where one acts in order to compel the other to do his own will. The destructiv process that follows leads to material as well as symbolic losses and frustration motivating the loser to strike back. Clausewitz calls fascinating the trinity of primoridial violence, hatred and enmity which are instrumental in the fight.

Fight, however, is not without excitement. According to Clausewitz fight is a play of chance and probablity, within which the creative spirits is free to roam. War has always been an example of how people experience the emotional dramas of victory and defeat, life and death, power and powerlessness, dominance and submission, heroism and cowardice. War is a challenge where certainties are deeply disguised by uncertainties creating a cognitive fog hindering commanders from knowing what is happening.

Ironically, processes of fight are not infrequent in peaceful times as well. When Clausewitz claims, that „war is merely the continuation of policy by other means” he is assuming the peace, consequently is merely the continuation of war by other means. Destructiveness matters out of the competition context.

Positive functions of competition

Properly regulated competition can produce important benefits. When no objective criterion of measurement for performance does exist competition yields a crude yardstick. Moreover, without competition it would be difficult to select those who are more able to perform successfully. In Nietzsche’s view competition was an antidote of the monopoly of predominance of one player. According to him the only protective measure against genius is a second genius. Nietzsche saw in competition an unprallaled means of ehnacement individual achievement resulting in the well being of the whole community.

„Every talent must develop through a struggle: whereas modern educators fear nothing more than the unleashing of so-called ambition. Here, selfishness is feared as 'evil as such' — except by the Jesuits, -who think like the ancients in this and probably, for that reason, may be the most effective educators of our times. They seem to believe that selfishness, i.e. the individual, is simply the most powerful agens, which obtains its character of 'good' and 'evil' essentially from the aims towards which it strives. But for the ancients, the aim of agonistic education -was the well-being of the -whole, of state society. For example, every Athenian was to develop himself, through competition, to the degree to which this self was of most use to Athens and would cause least damage. It was not a boundless and indeterminate ambition like most modern ambi tion: the youth thought of the good of his native city when he ran a race or threw or sang; he wanted to increase its reputation through his own; it was to the city's gods that he dedicated the -wreaths which the umpires placed on his head in honour. From childhood, every Greek felt the burning desire within him to be an instrument of bringing salvation to his city in the contest between cities: in this, his selfishness was lit, as -well as curbed and restricted. For that reason, the individuals in antiquity -were freer, because their aims were nearer and easier to achieve. Modern man, on the other hand, is crossed everywhere by infinity, like swift-footed Achilles in the parable of Zeno of Elea: infinity impedes him, he cannot even overtake the tortoise.„ (Nietzsche, 1872).

Modern empirical social psychologogy affords evidence that competition ehances the level of motivation to achieve. (Triplett, 1898).)

Effects of destructive social relationships

As the competition escalates into conflict it perpetuates itself by effects of impairment of communication between the conflicting parties each seeking to gain advantage increasing the cognitive fog. False promises, misleading strategies and crude disinformation lead to the point of no return. They recognize that they cannot trust in each other any more.

Lacking any interest in perceiving the other in positive terms the parties in destructive social relationship will develop mutually negative images of each other including suspicion of one another’s intentions. „Right or wrong it’s my party” will become the rule of communication.

The parties in conflict strive for increasing their own power and reduce the power of the other till the end. Any decrease in the power of other is seen as a desirability to oneself. There is a winner and a loser if it was a win-lose conflict but there can be a lose-lose outcome as well.

The destructive nature of struggle stems from the conviction that there is no other solution except the imposition of one’s will ont he other, which in turn leads using coercive tactics. Threats will be used as psychological tactic and violence be used as as physical tactic. The conflict becomes a symbolic struggle and it is no longer confined to a given issue. The escalation enhances the motivational stakes and makes compromises less desirable than a complete disaster.

Hostility separates the parties in conflict narrowing their scope of knowledge of the other. One has no opportunity to understand the role of misunderstanding and misjudgment in the conflict. The malignant process of hostility is served by self-fulfilling prophecies. As Morton Deutsch puts it „…you engage in in hostile behavior toward another because of a false assumption that the other has done or is preparing to do so something harmful to you, your false assumption becomes true when it leads you to engage in hostile behavior that then provokes the other to react in a hostile manner to you.” (Deutsch, 2000. p.26)

Desructive social relationships can endure through generations. The use of psychological and physical violent means perpetuate as means of revenge. People feeling entitled to destruction resist feelings of remorse. Ivan-Boszörményi Nagy (1993) observed that when people seem to be acting fanatically, through prejudice, it is because they see it as a just cause. Being destructive they see themselves as doing justice for unjust deeds committed in the past.


Crisis is the zero point of the destructive social processes resulting in total loss of control over events. It creates uncertainty that makes impossible to maintan order. In order to prevent further damage immediate decisions would be necessary. The causes of the crisis however cannot be known adequately that makes rational, informed, timely decisions impossible.

Crisis is unavoidable whenever the old order can no longer be maintained and the new order has not been established. People tend to treat crisis as unexpected being unaware of the close interrelationship between chaos and order. Anaximander insisted that the basis of human existence is Απειρον whch is unlimited, infinite, or indefinite just like the state seen as crisis. Crises can be defined in terms of the chaotic theory. When the control parameter of a chaotic system is modified, the chaotic attractor touches an unstable periodic orbit inside the basin of attraction inducing a sudden expansion in the attractor. This phenomenon is termed as interior crisis in a chaotic system (Kiel, Euel, 1997).

Conseqently, crisis is the message of the Απειρον forcing people to change. Volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes are natural crises but some of them are created by social forces.

Social crises vary according to the realms affected. The most serious versions of crisis comprises aspects of economic, social, cultural and social psychological realms. Revolutions, civil wars, military defeats, genocides represent the worst extremes of the destructive social relations.

Crises canoot be precisely foreseen but once they had been evolved they can be managed. The management of any crisis aims at to reverse the direction of the destructive social relations into constructive one. The intervention first aims at stopping the losses brought by the destructive social relations. Furhter steps of the crisis management will be discussed later.

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